Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The way rain smells in El Paso

In West Texas, especially in summer, it smells incredible when it rains. It's not ozone -- it's something that happens with the flora specific to the desert there, mesquite or creosote or sagebrush. I've been a lot of places in the rain, and it doesn't smell like that anywhere else. When I was a kid, of course, I thought that was just how rain smelled. I miss it. I haven't smelled it in over 10 years, probably. It's weird -- I know I love it, but I can barely remember it. Smells are deeply tied to memory, so why are they so hard to imagine? I can see my childhood bedroom, can perfectly imagine sitting on my bed next to the open window watching rain fall on the swing set. But my memory of the smell is attenuated, and tenuous, like something at the far edge of peripheral vision.

Is there such a thing as bespoke room spray? I wish I could smell that El Paso rain smell at will.


  1. Ah, yes, the smell of creosote after a desert rain in El Paso. I too will never forget that and the cooling breeze rolling off the desert plains at night. When in high school, I used to stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning enjoying that breeze. Thanks for this post.

  2. I remember having some weird bias against Texas, because driving through it, we got out of the car at a gas station and there was nothing but desert, everywhere, and I saw my first tumbleweed, which I had always thought were made up for cartoons.

    But a great part of my childhood was spent in Arizona. I have memories of a very real, fearful knowledge that were I to touch the metal bolts of a slide, I would be burned, or that if I saw a snake, there was a good chance it could kill me, or that the ants here, when they bit, hurt like hell.

    And I have the same kind of memories as you have of Texas, despite how hellish it can be described in other words.

  3. The first time my boyfriend came to El Paso, we were driving to my parents' house from the airport and some tumbleweed blew by on the freeway. He was shocked and amazed. Yes, tumbleweed is real, all too real.

    I still think maybe Mt. Rushmore is made up.

  4. Elisa, what a great idea, to somehow bottle the smell of (fresh fallen) rain from various places. Even El Paso (just kidding).

    You probably know, Dylan has the lyric ("Just Like Tom Thumb Blues") that mentions the rain in Juarez . . .

  5. i can't remember how i arrived at your blog (but the title caught my eye!). this post makes me want to visit texas. hmm, not visit, but experience. yeah, that's the word.

    i grew up along a river with powerful waterfalls. it's easy to remember the mist and the roar, but in revisiting the area recently, what i had forgotten was the tremor i felt- the power from the falls. i wish that could be bottled up and used at will as well.

  6. I bet wherever you moved when you left the falls seemed eerily quiet!